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Best Local Things to Do

Free and Cheap New Orleans Dates

Royal Street
Royal Street in New Orleans is the ideal spot for a romantic stroll. (Photo: Zack Smith)

New Orleans is one of the most romantic cities in the country with endless opportunities to enjoy music, food, and culture with that special someone. We’ve compiled some of the best free and inexpensive date ideas here, from soulful shows to mind-expanding art and book readings. Now find a date and explore.

Food and Nightlife Dates

Oysters at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Go to an oyster happy hour

Bars and restaurants throughout New Orleans offer happy hours that include discounted drinks and oysters, making this an inexpensive way to enjoy fresh-caught seafood. Check out our roundup of oyster happy hours. Le Bon Temps Roule’s free oyster happy hour with live piano music and complementary oysters each Friday at 7 p.m. is one of my favorites.

Catch a free show in the French Quarter 

Located at the entrance of the French Quarter on Esplanade Avenue and Decatur Street, The Balcony Music Club has wide-open doors, a large stage, and live bands all day with no cover. Shows start at noon with new bands debuting every three hours, and the last act hits the stage at midnight. If you’re looking for an intimate, romantic date, The Starlight Lounge has live music seven nights a week, most of which have no cover. Imagine a pianist trilling out tunes on an old upright while you and your date lounge on plush couches. Sounds like a dreamy date night.

Dance ‘til dawn to a brass band

Find a stage filled with soul-shaking brass and dance with your date until dawn. Most brass bands in New Orleans have affordable weekly shows costing anywhere from $5-$15. On Wednesdays, The Tremé Brass Band plays at 9:30 p.m. at The Candelight Lounge in Tremé. On Thursdays, Corey Henry and the Tremé Funktet play at 10:30 Vaughn’s Lounge in the Bywater, and admission includes all you can eat red beans and rice. On Friday, check out The Original Pinettes Brass Band, an all-female brass band at Bullet’s Sports Bar in Tremé at 9 p.m.

Cafe Negril on Frenchmen Street (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

See a no-cover show on Frenchmen Street

Frenchmen Street is a top destination to see live music, and there are numerous no-cover venues to enjoy with a date. The Spotted Cat Music Club has live jazz, funk, and blues starting at 2 p.m. every day, and Café Negril has no cover for its funk and reggae acts. The Apple Barrel’s intimate dive-bar hosts live jazz and blues, and Bamboula’s and 30/90 also have free jazz, swing, and blues shows. Don’t forget to stop outside and listen to the talented street musicians, and always bring a few extra dollars to tip them.

Grab a bite at Rosalita’s Backyard Tacos in the Bywater

This cash-only taco stand is hidden in a back alley in the Bywater and serves up cheap, delish food each Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday from 5-9 p.m. After grabbing your bites to go, head to a local Bywater bar like Markey’s or Bud Rip’s that allow you to bring food-in and enjoy ice-cold, cheap beer with your dinner.

Shows and Games

The Smoothie King Center, home to the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Go to a New Orleans sporting event 

For thrill-seekers, a sporting event is the perfect date, and The New Orleans Pelicans sells inexpensive basketball game tickets depending on demand (I recently snagged a ticket for $12!). Another fun, off-the-wall sporting event is attending a Big Easy Roller Girl bout. Picture a group of women on skates careening into each other as they fiercely make rounds in a roller rink. Bouts take place once a month from April through August, and tickets can be purchased in advance for a discount online.

Catch a comedy show or independent film

Share a few laughs with your date at The New Movement, a comedy club on St. Claude Avenue that offers both early and late-night shows on weekends. Most tickets are $7 or less if you RSVP in advance. The Broad Theater in Tremé sells $8 tickets to any movie before 5:30 p.m.

Attend a late-night talk show

If you want to woo your date with inside New Orleans culture, attend Spotlight New Orleans with John Calhoun. This live, late-night talk show interviews local celebrities, musicians, and leaders and always includes a performance from a New Orleans musician like Big Freedia, All Carnival Time Johnson, or Marcia Ball. Located in Café Istanbul in the Marigny, the show takes place once each month minus a short hiatus in the summer, and tickets cost $10.

Dates for Nature Lovers

Take a stroll through Audubon Park (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

Wander through public parks

Our local flora resembles something from a storybook. With century-old oak trees dripping with moss and lush palms tussled with butterflies, New Orleans parks are the perfect backdrop for a romantic stroll. Walk along Audubon Park’s outer two-mile loop, or wander along the inner loop, slightly shorter at 1.8 miles with views of the lagoon. City Park is stunning in its own right, with plenty of fun outdoor activities.

Hike the Barataria Preserve

Hop in your car and drive about thirty-minutes to the Barataria Preserve on the Westbank for a peaceful stroll through the wetlands. Entry to the National Park is free, and trails often include sightings of alligators, nutria, and turtles. Kayaks and canoes are also available to rent.

Go for a stroll along the levee in Algiers Point (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

Take a romantic stroll or bike ride on the levee

Talk a walk on the tip-top of the levee at St. Charles Avenue and Carrollton Avenue for an outdoor date with stunning views. A paved path unfurls for miles, perfect for biking, walking, or running, and about a mile towards Oak Street, you can pause for a bite at the Cowbell, a funky restaurant built into an old service station directly next to the levee.

Art & Culture Dates

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

Visit a museum on a discounted day

For art aficionados, the New Orleans Museum of Art offers free admission to their outdoor sculpture garden year-round along with complimentary guided tours on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays at noon. Many art museums in New Orleans also offer free or discounted days for Louisiana residents, such as The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, free for residents each Thursday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m, or The Contemporary Arts Center, free to residents on Sundays.

See new art on Second Saturday on St. Claude

On the Second Saturday of each month, art galleries along St. Claude Avenue open their doors to premier new exhibits from 6-9 p.m. Featuring cutting edge age, the exhibits are often interactive and sometimes include performances. Galleries are free to enter, and have low-cost or complementary wine and drinks, making this the perfect inexpensive date for culture-lovers.

Attend a book reading 

Independent book stores in New Orleans regularly host authors and artists to discuss their most recent publications. Octavia Books fills its calendar with readings from local and national authors and artists, as does Garden Street Book Shop.

French Quarter Festival
A second line kicks off French Quarter Fest (Photo: Rebecca Todd)

Attend a free festival

No matter the month, there’s a free festival in New Orleans, making it the perfect activity for a fun date. In January and February, it’s Mardi Gras, of course. Attend Super Sunday in March, French Quarter Festival in April, Bayou Boogaloo in May, The Cajun-Zydeco Festival in June, Satchmo Summer Fest in August, Southern Decadence in September, The Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival in October, Oak Street Po-boy Festival in November, and LUNA Fête in December. That’s just the shortlist. There are dozens more. See the full list of festivals here.

Browse French Quarter art galleries

Is there anything more romantic than wandering the cobbled streets of the French Quarter? If you need a destination, choose the galleries along Royal Street. Some of my personal favorites include Frank Relle Gallery, a local photographer who captures otherworldly Louisiana nightscapes, and Gallery B. Fos who depicts New Orleans people, places, and animals in bursts of thick, rainbow paint.

Learn about New Orleans history 

There are over a dozen museums in New Orleans each covering a niche of the city’s intricate history, and many of them are $10 or less to access. Admission to The New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is $5, and you’ll learn about some startling remedies from the past. The New Orleans Historic Collection has two campuses in the French Quarter, and admission is completely free. Treme’s Petit Jazz Museum offers $10 admission and an engaging and history of the Tremé neighborhood.

Healthy Dates

Parleaux Beer Lab (Photo: Paul Broussard)

Take a yoga class at a brewery

If you’re looking for a date that is mostly healthy with a little bit of party, take a yoga class at a brewery. Check out Yoga on Tap each Monday at 6 p.m. at NOLA Brewing for $5, or Free Yoga at Parleaux Beer Lab each Sunday at 11 a.m. in the Bywater (make sure to tip the yoga teacher). NOLA Tribe Yoga hosts an hour class at Tchoup Yard each Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. for $5.

Get your heart racing with a workout with the November Project

If your date loves to get their cardio in, try an early morning November Project workout for free, or meet up with a running club. Soulsquad Run Club meets each Wednesday at 6:16 p.m at Manning’s Sports Bar & Grill for a 5K run through the CBD, and The 504th meets each Tuesday at 7 p.m. for a three to five mile run from a different location announced via Instagram each week.

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